The Mental Health Benefits of Guitar Playing
Updated: Sep 22
The Mental Health Benefits of Guitar Playing
Life isn’t always easy, with its many ups and downs. In this article I’m going to talk about how our 6 stringed friend can be a useful tool in tough times and some of the ways that it can help our brain and our life. Let's talk about the mental health benefits of guitar playing.
Foreword: Trusting The Process
The nature of this article is intrinsically linked to practicing guitar and hitting goals so it’s important for me to take a moment to mention the following before you read on.
Guitar playing is a long term thing. Depending on how far you want to take it, it can literally be never ending. There are multiple lifetimes of information out there and no one person could possibly ever learn it all.
Also, whatever our guitar goals are, there has to be a certain level of trust in the process. Your brain doesn’t remember things instantly, it takes time right? This is especially true in the beginning when we're exercising parts of the brain that haven't been used in this way before.
Therefore, to succeed you must trust the process and that if you put in the time on the appropriate things, you’ll improve and along with it, your outlook on what you're truly capable of. The most appropriate set of things to learn is best determined by an experienced guitar teacher who will catch bad habits before they form, a vital tool in improving quickly and efficiently and thus, boosting mental health.
Do you remember the last time you listened to music and felt moved? You can take those good feelings and use them as inspiration. Your favourite guitar player or band can be used as a catalyst to get started learning the guitar.
This is why the vast majority of people start in the first place because they feel inspired, they feel motivated to learn their favourite songs and emulate their idols and in the process feel good about themselves and gain a sense of value.
If you already play then you’ll know that familiar feeling of watching another guitar player and then getting the urgency to pick yours up again. That right there is true motivation, an intrinsic love for music needing a physical escape route.
Learning about how to practice gives some additional structure to your days and this is especially helpful if you don't currently have a lot going on (during a global pandemic for example).
But the bigger, long term gain is in the specifics of how you might structure your actual practice routine and what you include within it. What you get out of practice is what you put in, you have to provide the information, preferably in a spreadsheet and keep track of your results over time.
You'll slowly begin to unravel the underlying structure of music itself and how the pieces of your various practice routines over the months and years come together. This will affect the way you approach other areas of your life and give you the tools to make changes there also if you wish. Understanding music leads to a better understanding of life and gives you more reasons to feel good about yourself.
Practice is also good for teaching you the importance of discipline. Sometimes where we are right now in terms of our ability doesn't satisfy us. We want to instantly play like our idols but that just isn't going to happen without the work.
However, by showing up consistently and breaking through this self-judgment we can slowly learn that performing a task with a goal in mind regardless of how we feel can yield satisfying results in the medium to long term.
In a world with social media constantly vying for our attention, one-click amazon deliveries & fast food it’s easy to fall into the trap of instant gratification but a goal like learning the guitar can help us to see things with a long term perspective and help us realise that life is a long-term project.
Whenever we learn something new, it can feel quite overwhelming for that very reason. It's all new and we have no idea what we’re doing! We might not even know how to look for the information that can push us in the appropriate direction.
After the initial rush and excitement of something novel wears off, it does, at least to a certain extent, become work. And therefore, our focus can wane as we realize that we need to put real time and effort into this if we're going to get better.
However, by consistently trusting the process, our brain adjusts and we learn to focus ourselves for longer periods of time because of the previous rewards of practice.
Anytime you feel that progress is slow, you can draw on the last time you felt this way and managed to conquer whatever your goal was at the time. This level of focus and trust in the process will help you remain mindful and keep you on task and 'in the moment'.
If you're engaged in practicing and playing music, there's a chance that it will absorb your thoughts and take the focus off any negative aspects of your life.
I've certainly found that in harder times, I can pick up my guitar and practice or play and the joy of it makes me forget whatever mental difficulty was plaguing me beforehand. That doesn't mean you should bury your head in favour of guitar! But it does offer a space to get away and then come back to our thoughts later.
Not only that, when you're ready you can get out and play in public at an open mic, say, or with other musicians and there really is no better therapy than that (as scary as that is at first!)
In this article I have discussed some ways in which guitar playing can benefit mental health. As mentioned in the introduction, life isn't always easy but in my experience, playing the guitar definitely makes it easier by adding an exciting and engaging dynamic to your life.
About The Author
Aaron Carrington is the owner of Carrington Guitar Academy in Bath, UK. Since graduating from The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London. Aaron has played in high profile locations such as Buckingham Palace, The Savoy and The London Eye.
He’s been a regular part of the UK wedding and corporate gig scene and has travelled internationally to the Middle East to play in top quality residency bands 6 nights per week. The finesse gained from this level of playing experience is passed on to his guitar students.
Now permanently in Bath, Aaron strives to deliver the highest standards of guitar teaching at Carrington Guitar Academy by offering a personalized lesson plan tailored to each student’s goals. You may also catch Aaron busking regularly on the streets of Bath. If you're interested in guitar lessons get in touch to book a FREE trial lesson!